I’ve yet to do a big signing, but here’s an interesting article on them.
To some authors, the book-signing is a curse. What could be more excruciatingly dull, to the sensitive creative mind, than to sit for hours in a festival tent or bookshop, inscribing your name on several hundred copies of your new masterpiece? This isn’t a proper display of your writing talent – a baboon scratching the dirt with a stick could do it just as well. To other authors, signing books for the public is a sacramental act, a talismanic ritual in which the bond between writer and reader, expressed in a few words of warm mutual stroking, is sealed by the seminal squiggle of ink. Between these extremes of attitude lies the truth: book signings are a repetitive chore, mitigated by the pleasure, for authors, of meeting their buying public, and the joy, for readers, of meeting the mind that dreamt up an imaginative creation which lives in their heads. But such is the demand for signed copies that authors often have to sign several thousand books in private, to be sold later.
They’re a great humbler, signings. When I worked for Ottakar’s, at one store I looked after events, and it could be terribly embarrassing when you had two people turn up for a signing (and that was if you were lucky). We had decent-selling authors have no one turn up for their gig. Other small-time writers have a loyal following, but you can tell a lot about a writer by how they react to having few people turn up. Many remain sanguine, which is wonderful. But there are some horror stories that I’ve heard in the book-selling network (my word, do booksellers gossip!) that I couldn’t possibly divulge on such a public forum.